1865, headed for duty in Basra at the head of the Persian Gulf.
In the days before the Suez Canal opened in 1869, such a trip
required ships to transit the Atlantic Ocean to the Cape of
Good Hope. This time, storms in the Atlantic dragged the two
Ottoman ships in the opposite direction, to Rio de Janeiro,
marking the first-ever voyage to America by the Ottoman navy,
accidental or otherwise.
Two crew members of one of the ships, the Bursa corvette,
wrote separate accounts of the voyage. TNT herewith
presents the English translations of the two books, both of
which were transcribed from Ottoman to modern Turkish
by N. Ahmet Özalp, in a multi-part series.//
Accidental Turks in Brazil & Beyond (1866)/Part I
By Mühendis (Engineer)Faik
Two Ottoman warships bearing the names Bursa and Izmir
left Istanbul en route to their new duty station in the Persian Gulf. The date was
12 September 1865. The ships passed through the Mediterranean Sea and the
Strait of Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean, planning to follow the African
shoreline to Basra at the head of the Persian Gulf. Such a voyage would normally
take months, even without problems. This voyage, however, met with unexpected
After an eventful journey through the Mediterranean, the ships reached Spain on
30 October and had to spend six months waiting at Cadiz. But the real adventure
was waiting for them in the Atlantic. The ships departed Cadiz on 20 April,
visited the Canary Islands and reached the Cape Verde Islands on 14 May. After a
two-day break, the ships set sail once more but on 19 May they encountered a storm
that threw them off course. Henceforth, the ships’ course would be determined by
the storms and the ocean waves. This 17-day voyage of uncertainty ultimately
brought them to the shores of Brazil, where they laid anchor at the port of Rio de
The Bursa and Izmir corvettes had to stay in Rio for two months. After that they
set sail on the ocean once again and visited many ports, including the Cape of Good
Hope, Mauritius, Muscat and Bombay, before finally reaching Basra on 14 November
1866. In this way, their 13-month journey, or more appropriately their adventure,
came to an end.
For the ships’ crew members the voyage was filled with hardships and fear.
Fortunately for us, two of the crew of the Bursa wrote about the journey and left
these accounts for us. They were ship engineer Faik Bey and İmam Abdurrahman
Efendi, who remained in Brazil for a while before returning to Istanbul.
The travel log that Abdurrahman Efendi wrote in Arabic after he came back to
Istanbul from Brazil, was translated into Ottoman Turkish by Antepli Mehmed Şerif
Efendi and published in 1288/1871. In this work, the transit to Brazil is mentioned
briefly. The writer’s main focus was not the voyage but rather the situation of the
Moslems in Brazil and the work he took on there. His Brazil Travel Log, though
does give his route of return and the main points he visited on his way back to
Conversely, Engineer Faik Bey preferred to write about all phases of the voyage, one
by one, and provide dates for them, as well. His travel log begins with the start of the
voyage and covers each port visited. Additionally, he wrote about interesting and
important incidents that occured between ports in a concise and summarizing manner.
Faik Bey’s travel log is divided into accounts of the ports and cities he visited in two
separate texts. In the first text, he describes in a technical way the information he
obtained, his first impressions and his official activities and relationships. In his
second text, entitled “Events/Incidents”, though, he relates his observations,
determinations, personal thoughts and comments in a much more personal and
humanistic way. In this section, Faik Bey comes before us as a human being, not
as a naval officer, and provides his personal perspective, emotions, interest,
judgements and comments.
Faik Bey’s story of the voyage amounts to the description of Turkish mariners’
first visit to America, however unintended it was. For this reason we thought that
it would be appropriate to add the subtitle Turkish Mariners’ First Voyage to America
to his work, which was originally entitled Seyahatnâme-i Bahr-i Muhit (Travel Log of
an Ocean Voyage), for this second printing that has been done 138 years after the
work’s first publication in 1285/1868.
While preparing the work for this new printing, for young people, in particular,
we updated the language of the text, which is quite heavy and can be understood by
only a limited number of people these days. However, we had to keep some words
that reflect the characteristics of the period and maritime terms. In any event, we
have explained these with footnotes. We may have made mistakes or explained
insufficiently these maritime terms, which are best avoided by those outside that
profession. For this, we ask your indulgence.
The Journey Begins
May Almighty God, who preordains journeys and voyages and whose loftiness
and enormity we cannot comprehend, lord of the sea and land and king of kings,
spreading good morals, protector of the world, security-provider for all people,
our esteemed lord, who adorns fate with success and joy until Judgement Day,
bless this happy state and the Sultan’s ship so it reaches all its goals with Godly
winds of success in the face of crushing force and enormous storms and steels
the heroes’ swords to extinguish the hearths of dastardly enemies. Amen!
Ottoman Sultan Abdülazziz (1830-1876)
Thanks to the successes of the Esteemed Sultan, the corvettes Bursa and İzmir,
after maintenance in the state shipyard for the voyage to the Persian Gulf, under
the command of the honorable Naval Lieutenant Commander Ali Bey, weighed
anchor on the evening of Sunday, the third of Cemaziye’l-Evvel 1282, Hicri, and
twelfth of September 1865, Rumi, around 12 o’clock, with a plea for God’s help,
in front of Tophane and departed Istanbul. We set sail under favorable starry
skies and reached Gallipoli at four o’clock the following day.
Because there were not enough hard biscuits at Gallipoli we had to remain there
for two days. Then, we put the machines to work and headed for Sakız Island,
where we loaded coal and pressed on. Thanks to a stiff northeast wind at our backs,
our ship made 9-10 miles per hour and brought us to the port of Malta on the
twenty-first of September, where we anchored.
We remained in Malta port for a few days, replenished some of the ship’s
provisions and set sail again on Friday, the first day of the month of October.
While heading toward Gibraltar, some fifty miles from Spain’s Majorca Islands,
at 37 degrees 45 minutes north latitude and 1 degree 59 minutes east longitude,
the weather worsened. In the morning, because of a great storm engendered by
a fierce westerly wind, the signal flags used for communication on both corvettes
either ripped apart or flew away. Two hours later, we lost each other amid pouring
rain and extremely thick fog.
Until the next morning, we hove to and then the weather became somewhat calmer.
There was no sign of the İzmir corvette . We unfurled all sails and intended to take a
tacking route toward Gibraltar but in the face of a counter-current, a west wind and
diminished coal, we had to set a course for Algiers. Thusly, on Thursday, at around
noon on the seventh of October, we availed ourselves of a southeasterly wind and at
eleven thirty o’clock on Friday we reached the port of Algiers. We anchored at a
spot 15 fathoms deep.
As everyone knows, the city of Algiers is situated at 36 degrees 47 minutes north
latitude and 3 degrees 4 minutes east longitude, as measured from London. It is a
beautiful, developed city, set on top of a hill with big buildings, many mosques, schools,
churches and barracks. The people of Algiers, not content to assuage their longing to
see the exalted Ottoman flag after so long a time from a distance, flocked to the ship
and their great respect and reverence could be seen in their eyes and on their faces.
The weather and water of Algiers are alway pleasant, in every season. For this reason,
many people from Europe have migrated to Algiers and settled here, making it their
home. The Algiers people were very respectful toward us and tried to make us feel
welcome. Every day the invited each of us somewhere for a feast and celebration.
Truly, the people expressed their hospitality and patriotism wholeheartedly. In fact,
the Algiers's mufti presented a beautiful copy of the Kuran, worth 15,000 kuruş, to
our Captain and asked him to have it donated to a mosque in Bursa. The humanity
and unselfishness of this individual left us all with feelings of happiness and gratitude.
We stayed in Algiers for five days and, after replenishing our coal and other needs, we
departed on Wednesday, the thirteenth of October. With the weather favorable, we
opened all our sails. On Saturday, the 16th of October, at around noon we entered the
port of Gibraltar and anchored there.
We found the İzmir corvette already at the port of Gibraltar. We asked them about their
disappearance during the storm we both survived. They told us that their ship began to
take on 2.5 inches of water under the boilers inside the steam machine every hour and
this increased to 5 inches per hour while they were underway. All hands pitched in to
pump the water out until they reached Gibraltar.
Once he learned about this, our Captain informed the Naval Command in Istanbul via
the Ottoman Consulate in Gibraltar . Fourteen days later, on the twenty-ninth of
October, the order came by telegram from Istanbul that the İzmir corvette should be
repaired quickly at the shipyard in Cadiz, Spain. Based on this order, we immediately
departed Gibraltar and the next day, Sunday, 30 October, we entered the port of
Cadiz at late morning and anchored in two fathoms of water.
//END OF PART I//